I see you. Newly bereaved mother. I know your bleeding heart and your aching arms. Your whole body grieving with you. I know that you exist partially in this world and partially searching for your son or daughter. I know people tell you how strong you are and it makes you want to scream. That any strength you have is borne of necessity. You need to get up each day. So you do. You need to eat. So you do. You need to breathe. But you are grateful it’s automatic. Each of those things has become difficult. Each of those things, dragging yourself through viscous mud where there was only air before. People tell you to live day by day and you are just managing minute by minute. Know that it is a miracle that you are. I cannot think of anyone stronger than a mother who has lost her child and still breathes.
I see you. I see you trying to figure out how to mother a child no-one else can see. I know you want others to speak their name. You cry when people do. You rage when people don’t. You try to make people understand. You don’t want them to understand. You don’t want any other person in the world to go through what you are. You find others that have lost their precious babies and you wonder how on earth there could be so many. When you knew nothing of still-birth, nothing of SIDS, nothing of infant death before now. They will become your family for a little while, those souls that understand your pain. The people who will always speak your child’s name and will always see you as a mother.
I see you. Searching for why. Why you? Why your child? What did you do? What didn’t you do? You have examined every moment of your pregnancy. Every moment you may have spent with your child. You want answers. Maybe you got them. Maybe you didn’t. But you still feel guilt. Even if you have been told a million times there was nothing you could have done. A raw, angry, hungry sort of guilt that gouges into your soul. That drags you down into a wicked spiral of self-hate. It will ease. I know you won’t believe me. But one day it will ease.
I see you. Rushing past the baby aisle in the supermarket. Avoiding baby showers. Turning the other way when a mother with a pram approaches. I see you. When you can’t help but stare at a child the same age as yours. And you wonder, for the millionth time, what if? I know sometimes you fantasize someone from the hospital will appear at your door with your baby, hand them back to you and apologise for the horrible mix up. You would hold your child close, breathe in the scent you were worried you had forgotten and never let them out of your sight. It gets easier. Truly, you will find a way to mother the child no longer in your arms but forever in your heart. There will be longer and longer pauses between the moments of intense of pain. Eventually, the good days will outnumber the bad.
I see you. Slowly coming back to life. You laugh. A real laugh, not a mocking imitation or the ghost of dark humour. But a real, belly laugh and for a moment, you don’t recognise the sound. Then you feel guilt. I see you. Wondering about another baby. Feeling like it would be the only thing in the world that might bring you joy. Feeling like it would be a betrayal of your baby no longer with you. I see you. Reaching back out into the world. Taking tentative steps into a place that is strangely unchanged when everything in your life shattered. I see you. Looking over your shoulder and waiting for the next tragedy to strike. Eventually, things will settle into a new normality. Eventually, you won’t feel like a stranger in your own life. You will never be the person you once were, but with time you will grow to accept and even like who you have become.
I see you as a mother. I recognise you as a mother. The hardest kind of motherhood there is. You will survive. Even this. You will survive.
October is infant and pregnancy loss awareness month. It is an incomprehensible thing to have happen to your family. Yet it happens more often that we are led to believe. By talking about infant and pregnancy loss we can lift the taboo. By lifting the taboo we support those whose hearts are breaking. We support those who are fighting to make still-birth, SIDS and childhood diseases a thing of the past.
As someone intimately acquainted with the pain of child loss, this poem resonates:
I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in other’s eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in this world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try to walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so that they don’t hurt quite so much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.